Ferguson, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and graduated from Archbishop Ryan High School and Drexel University, is one of nine astronauts chosen by NASA to fly to and from the International Space Station on commercial spacecraft made by Boeing and SpaceX next year.
Following SpaceX's first demonstration mission without humans aboard Crew Dragon targeted for November 2018, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two NASA astronauts to fly in the Dragon spacecraft.
"We believe, the earliest time we can confidently do that will be in mid-2019 after flying an uncrewed flight test late this year or early next year", said John Mulholland, vice president and programme manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew effort, in a NASA blogpost.
Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme from the United States soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. NASA now has a contract to use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that expires on November 2019, and the agency plans to use Boeing or SpaceX to fill the gap. "Today's announcement advances our great American vision and strengthens the nation's leadership in space", he added.
"The first flight is something you dream about as a test pilot", said Hurley, who flew on the last shuttle mission. The Starliner test flight will send former military personnel Eric Boe, Christopher Ferguson and Nicole Aunapu Mann on a groundbreaking mission. He began his career with the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot, test pilot and colonel. He has since worked with Boeing to develop and test the Starliner spacecraft.
"The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight", Mark Geyer, the director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement.More news: China ready with additional tariffs
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According to Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, Cargo Dragon was certified right from the start with a spacecraft lifespan of 3 orbital missions. "I'll tell you, being able to launch to the International Space Station from USA soil, I can't imagine better", Cassada said.
Cassada, a Navy commander and test pilot, joined the astronaut corps in 2013; the launch will be his first.
Glover, a former Navy commander and test pilot, was also among the 2013 astronaut class. He is a colonel in the Air Force, where he was a flight test engineer before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. She was selected as an astronaut in 1998, and went on spend 322 days aboard the ISS, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks.
The development of a safe, reliable, and cost-effective solution for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station will allow the on-orbit research facility to continue to fulfill its promise as a world-class laboratory.
Victor Glover: Glover is a native of Pomona, California and he has three master's degrees. Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams will crew the Starliner's first mission, while Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will fly aboard the Crew Dragon first mission.
Maintaining the International Space Station costs the federal government up to $4 billion a year, and NASA is working on plans to privatize it.